Music in Politics

You’ll never guess what we’ve been speaking about in the office this week. No, really, don’t even hazard a hunch – you’ll never get it.

We’ve been pondering over the power of sound, and how to express it. I know: who’d have thunk it?

One of the ways in which we decided we could express the power of sound was to look at the use of music on the political campaign trail.

You see, we shout, to anyone who will listen, that music, without exception, is a better form of communication than any other: music can make people feel!

With this, I turned my keen eye to UK campaign trails, past and present.

Political races are nothing if not competitions in branding with an election day deadline.

Whilst politicians spend an inordinate amount of time fumbling’, bumblin’ and blunderin’ through pre-written and combed-over speeches, many voters don’t care about what they have to say. Instead, they perceive values through the choice of tune a wannabe-figurehead walks on stage to.

Whilst most of us would like to think that our vote is cast following a thorough analysis of the facts; most people just go with their gut when the time comes.

So, how have respective politicians leveraged music to influence voters?

Where better place to start than Tony Blair’s triumph in 1997? The landslide victory, that wrestled power back to the left after 18 years of Tory government, was soundtracked infamously by D:Ream’s ‘Things Can Only Get Better’.

In fact, the lead singer of the band Peter Cunnah joined Blair and Prescott on the campaign trail, and at the victory party, to play live.

The rest of the band seemingly were unavailable, particularly the keyboard player, who was too busy staring at the stars to bother with the unenlightened man’s political squabbles. What a cox.

The track itself matched the values of Blair’s New Labour: dynamic, youthful and contemporary, with an undeniable sense of optimism found in the lyrics.

PM Boris utilised music effectively also, for a more recent example; he walked out to the Who’s ‘Baba O’Riley’, a progressive and restless track that appeals to older audience, with lyrics calling for an “exodus” of some sort. The only thing that’s missing is Roger Daltrey repeatedly shouting “Brexit means Brexit!”.

You don’t need to look much further into UK Politics to find some horrific faux pas, in contrast.

Blair’s successor Gordon Brown, for example, managed in one fell swoop to undermine his entire keynote speech at the Labour Party’s 2008 conference by walking on to James’ ‘Sit Down’. In a time of political instability and a seeming culture of governmental indecision, inviting his audience to “sit down next to [him]… in sympathy” was a confusing move, with the track foreshadowing the unkind legacy of Prime Minister Brown.

Similarly, Theresa May strutting out uncomfortably to ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’, a vibrant and confident track, at the 2018 Tory Party conference managed solely to remind everyone both how bad she is at dancing and how horrendously uncharismatic she is. Her personality jarred with the music.

It is plain to see the power of suitable music, and in contrast the damage of ill-fitting music, through the lens of the speed-branding exercise that is a political campaign.

If you want to use music to your advantage, drop me a shout. I’m sure you’ll find me nothing but chord-ial.

Henry Clark